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Monday, February 15, 2021

Acquired Tastes XLIII: Gay Pulp Fiction, Part 37 - It's A Drag Edition / 2 of 2

Acquired Tastes XLIII: Gay Pulp Fiction, Part 37 -
It's A Drag Edition / 2 of 2

Today's edition is all about how drag and cross-dressing was depicted on the covers of early gay pulp fiction. 

Listed by the year they were published, these depictions cover the gamut of cross-dressing, drag, transvestitism, and fem boys. 

We'll kick it off by taking an inside peek at the oldest title listed; Eve Linkletter's The Gay Ones.

The Gay Ones
Author: Eve Linkletter
Publisher: Fabian/Vega 
"Were they pranks of nature? Or were they the third sex - the gay ones?"

Eve Linkletter

Eve Linkletter’s third book for Fabian is about gay the men, cross-dressers, drag queens, lesbians and gender-explorers of the tawdry New Orleans nightclub crowd in the 1950's (the same crowd that Lee Harvey Oswald hung around with).

We learned a bit about Eve the other week

I stumbled on a rather detailed description of the book, which I am sharing here, in an altered and edited version to give you an idea of how complex these novels can sometimes be. 

"The novel opens with ten year-old Jerry, who is confused by his feelings; he’s an introvert who likes to try on his mother’s clothes and apply lipstick. His mother always wanted a daughter so she encourages this behavior (The same way Ernest Hemingway’s mother did. She, too, wanted a daughter and called Hemingway 'Ernestina'). Jerry befriends Norma, a nine year-old girl who lives next door. The two have fun; playing  house and other innocent activities, but a year later Norma moves to California. Deeply in love, they write to each other over the years. 

Years later, now in high school, a boy hits on Jerry, who is appalled and deeply offended. The boy, who is gay, tells Jerry that Jerry simply doesn’t know what he is...yet.
Making his way in the world, Jerry ends up working at The Powder Box Club in New Orleans, a drag queen bar. There, he becomes a female impersonator, singing and dancing for the patrons. Jerry soon finds himself running with a colorful, diverse, transgendered crowd.

One member of the group is Joe, a dishonorably discharged Army recruit who discarded his uniform so he could return to the club, where he could be 'Jo Anne', and no one would give a damn.

Joe's wealthy parents disowned him when they discovered Joe had tried to seduce a visiting male cousin. He did his best to convince them the cousin mistook an affectionate embrace for something more sinister, and that he wasn’t 'that way'. His parents remained unconvinced and looked at him with suspicion from that day forward. Knowing that his parents would cut him out of their will should they discover his secret and hoping to put the incident behind him by proving his heterosexuality, Joe joined the Army.

However, upon learning that he has been discharged from the Army, Joe's parent's surmise the true reason, even though Joe tells them he'd developed flat feet from marching.

Joe meets a lesbian named  Billie in a French Quarter Bar one night. She has difficulties similar to his own. Her parents are wealthy as well, and she had to leave home when they caught her trying to perform an unnatural act on her younger sister. Getting her fair share of the family fortune is also her motivation for wanting to convince her parents that she's changed her ways.

The two cook up a plot to get married and present a grandchild to their parents as a means of gaining entrance back into the family fold. Jerry and the other impersonators are invited to the wedding. Billie also invites all of her lesbian friends, and there is a good deal of eye brow raising on both sides of the aisle regarding the nuptials.

Joe and Billie get drunk in order to consummate their marriage, as they are repulsed by the thought of engaging in sexual intercourse with each other. However, they are hellbent on trying to make a baby.

The two agree to keep their private lives separate, living as they were before the wedding. Joe keeps a lover in a nearby apartment while Billie entertains her many girlfriends on the side.

Joe's lover is a young lad of nineteen named Mike. Mike had been in prison for stealing. When he'd arrived at the prison, one of the old-timers claimed him as his 'boy'. The man 'seduced' him in the shower room while the others kept watch. Most of the older men had a boy, and the boys called them 'daddy'.

At night, once the guard has completed his rounds, Mike’s daddy would creep into his bunk in the dormitory; a room where forty prisoners slept. All the other daddies knew that when it came to Mike, it was hands-off. Sadly, Mike left prison minus an eye. He was injured during a knife fight between his daddy and another. 

Joe found Mike hitchhiking on a highway. He picked him up, and they’ve been together ever since.

At various times Joe, as Jo Anne, meets a couple of men at the Club; usually older men who have money and are willing to pay well for a 'party'. He takes them to the apartment he shares with Mike. These men, bisexuals, are typically married, but they like to get their kicks in the French Quarter.

One day, a talent scout from Hollywood spots Jerry as a ringer for a young version of an old, movie star named Vincent Cole. The scout convinces Jerry to come out for a screen test to make a biopic of Cole. Jerry gets the part and moves to L.A. He knows that his childhood friend, Norma lives in North Hollywood, but he’s afraid to make contact, fearing she'll reject him once she discovers he is now gay and a cross-dresser.

He becomes a huge movie star. However, a scandal rag finds out he used to work at a gay cabaret and is threatening to expose him. His agent tells Jerry he needs to get married immediately; a beard, to protect his wholesome heartthrob image. The only woman he can think of asking is Norma, who happens to be a graduate student in psychology. Norma, believing she can 'fix' Jerry, agrees to marry him - but not for the sake of Jerry's career, but to turn him straight!"

Well, we all know how that's gonna go, huh? Poor, Norma. Delusional? Well, at least she can be miserable pool-side. Every Hollywood star has a pool, right?

This book is available for download on Amazon. $6.99! Thinking about it, but I am a bit of a cheap bastard.  

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Killer in Drag
Author: Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Publisher: Imperial

Here's our first offering from Ed Wood, Jr., famed director of such classics as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda. He was also quite a prolific writer, one not opposed to adopting a pseudonym now and then.  We took a look at one of his non-fiction works last week

Here's Ed with his girlfriend and co-star Dolores Fuller. 
Bela Lugosi, another frequent collaborator makes it a trio.

Killer in Drag has, over the years, been issued by a number of different publishers, featuring various covers. This one? A classic. 

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Queens In Drag
Author: Anonymous
Publisher: S-K Books
"Female Impersonators... on parade!"

Well, I hope they throw candy. Imagine this one on a float at the Macy's Day Parade!

I think she's stunning and I like her taste in both undergear and heels! Love this cover.

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Author: Harry Guggenheim
Publisher: Frimac Publications
"He was a man who liked to dress in women's clothing."

Transvestite. Such an interesting word. Something tells me this is filled with a lot of '...but I'm not gay.' When men dress in women's clothing, being gay is an assumption frequently made by the uninformed. Ed Wood, Jr. is an example of a fully heterosexual male who lived a full life, but had no shame when it came to his preference to wear women's clothing. He shared his zeal with anyone who would listen or watch. 

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Queer Daddy
Author: Helene Morgan
Publisher: Satan Press 101

There's something about the artwork that adorns early Satan Press 101 releases that is just disturbing enough to be intriguing. It looks evil. And, again, I'm impressed with the undergear. That stuff takes time to put on right. Love the Doris Day wig. Oh, and Helene Morgan? A take on Helen Morgan; an actress and the singer of torch songs who appeared in a number of films and starred on Broadway in Showboat and Sweet Adeline. A tragic figure, she was a chronic alcoholic who died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 41. Polly Bergen and Anne Blythe would both take a shot at playing her in biopics and she's considered something of an early gay icon, due to her preference for singing songs about heartbreak.  

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Unnatural Desires
Author: Vin Saxon
Publisher: PEC

PEC stands for Publishing Export Company and Vin Saxon is a pseudonym for Ron Haydock. Haydock wrote a number of books detailing radio's and Hollywood's various renditions of Sherlock Holmes and the works of the Marx Brothers. As Vin Saxon, he is credited with three books in this genre. Another of his gay pulp titles: Whisper of Silk. I would have included the cover here, but the cover simply features the head of a ken-doll like male touching a silk scarf to his face, so not of the same caliber. 

Based on the description on the back cover, Leon Farrow, our protagonist, appears to live a rather complicated life...

"Leon Farrow is a transvestite: He enjoys wearing female clothing, especially lingerie; however that is only part of the picture, he also has a mother-fixation; and is constantly getting involved with older married women.

Charlotte Niles is only one more in a long list of such involvements, but what a mother-type. W.O.W., a red-headed amazon with everything in proportion from her 44 inch globular bust to her nympho appetite. Being a kook herself, she digs Leon's little game, especially when she discovers how it arouses him. She decides to make Leon her personal maid; complete, down to the false eyelashes. Things are going quite well; Charlotte has handy stud service and Leon is  of course just thrilled to death with his lavender underwear and Charlotte's big bosom; 'til limp-wrist Arnold, a former friend of Leon's decides to blow the whistle on them..."

A couple of observations: I fear this book might be a chore to read, if the use of punctuation is any indication. And I don't know if 'globular' is a word I would use to describe a woman's breasts - unless they were filled with rice pudding. I didn't realize false eyelashes were standard issue when working as a maid. And the villain... limp wrists have always had such a bad reputation.

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So Sweet, So Soft, So Queer
Author: Victor J. Banis
Publisher: Private Edition Books
"He burned with a lusty passion... but this time his partner was a man."

This is such a strange title. It's brought to us by the godfather of modern pulp fiction, Victor J. Banis, who, for once, is writing under his own name. So, I have no clue what this book is about, but someone is a might pretty. There's something very upper class about this cover and I adore the esthetic, given the subject. I think Mr. Banis and whomever did the cover art definitely wanted to lift their subject material up from the its typical tawdry surroundings.

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Gay Sadist
Author: Mark Dunn
Publisher: PEC French Line

And speaking of tawdry... Mark Dunn has four credits in the genre, three of which were published by PEC's French Line. I have zero ideas about what is going on in the depicted scene, but... it looks a tad out of control. Is this... a brit milah? The guy on the floor seems a lot older than eight days and that is one passionate looking mohel!

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Sin-Deep Lover
Author: William Kane
Cover Art: Robert Bonfils
Publisher: Leisure Books/Greenleaf Classics
"Weird and wanton... the world of..."

Again... not sure what is going on here, but ain't we got fun... bags? Well, to each their own. Queen in the back looks good with or without her wig.

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Three On A Broomstick
Author: Don Holliday
Cover Art: Robert Bonfils
Publisher: Adult Book/Greenleaf Classics
"A gay cauldron of campy vamps flying..."

This is actually part of Don Holliday's (Victor J. Banis) Man from C.A.M.P series. It's popularity surprises me (remember the chapter we got to read this past Xmas?), as does how much this cover reminds me of Chita Rivera, Shirley MacLaine, and Paula Kelly in My Sweet Charity. Bravo, Bonfils! This looks to be one fun-filled romp. 

My Sweet Charity

So, Bonfil may have not seen the movie version (1969), but he could have very well seen the Broadway version with Gwen Verdon that opened on January 29, 1966 and ran until July 15, 1967!
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Brazen Image
Author Carl Corley
Publisher: PEC French Line 

This one looks a tad psychological, doesn't it? Carl Corley is a name familiar to those of you who have been reading this series of posts; he credited with 27 titles and two anthologies in the genre, many of them for PEC French Line. However, he also published titles for Greenleaf Classics, including Jail Mate and Swamp Angel. Miss Thang looks real good outta drag! That is one cute singlet and it fits him to a 'T'. 

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All At Once
Author: Leda Starr
Cover Art: Bill Alexander
Unique Books 136 

I am not exactly sure what this book is about, or if it should be included in this post, but either this is about an effeminate older queen (Paul Lynde?) running a brothel (shades of Kenneth Marlowe), or this is one fine drag review.

Leda Starr was a pseudonym of Gilbert F. Fox, who also wrote under the names Kimberly Kemp, Dallas Mayo, and Peter Willow. Born in 1917... 

Gilbert Fox served as a well-decorated lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in World War II. After the war, he received a master’s degree in music from Bowling Green University where he met and married his wife, Patricia. In the 1950's they moved to Greenwich Village where they became part of the New York swinging sex scene. Fox and his wife became participants in the CIA's early clandestine LSD experiments through CIA operative, George White.

Fox set up Vixen Press in his apartment and began publishing under various pseudonyms. He also wrote erotica for several New York publishers including Midwood Books. In an interview with Lynn Munroe (an avid book collector), Fox recalls that he was writing for a dollar a page but that Midwood offered $500 a manuscript which later rose to $1,000. When asked about what it was like to work with Harry Shorten, he replied, "How Harry operated: one day we came back from lunch, and Harry picks the title, When the Lights Are Low, out of the air and says 'Your next book for Midwood will be 
When the Lights Are Low' That was it, no meaning at all, no story. So, you know, I went home and wrote When the Lights Are Low."

Fox wrote over 100 titles for Midwood Books using the pseudonyms Kimberley Kemp and Dallas Mayo for his lesbian novels and Paul Russo for his heterosexual books.

He died on November 11, 2004.

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Death of a Transvestite
Author: Ed Wood, Jr.
Publisher: PAD Library

Another by Ed Wood, Jr. Are you sensing a common theme, here? This has also been published many times over the years by various publishers, under this title and as Let Me Die In Drag!

From the cover of a different edition:

After all the years the warden had spent in penal institutions, this man's final request thoroughly shocked him. The prisoner looked at him calmly and repeated his request... I want to die as a woman!

Well, that eliminates the electric chair. That wig and his falsies? They'd act as insulation.

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In Drag
Author: Len Harrington
Publisher: PEC French Line

This cover looks much older than 1968, but, according to my research, that is when this novel was published. I do think it's very pretty.  We've run across works by Mr. Harrington in the past. 

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The Fairy Goddess
Author: Tony Calvano
Cover Art: Robert Bonfils
Publisher: Companion Book/Greenleaf Classics

We've seen this one before, a Tony Clavano/Robert Bonfils classic. 

This is one of three gay-oriented offerings written by Tony Calvano (Thomas J. Ramirez). His others include Roll Call In Sodom for the Late Hour Library imprint and the curiously titled Under Five Fags.

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Parisian Passions
Author: X. Williams
Cover Art: Darrel Millsap
Publisher: Sundown Reader/Greenleaf Classics
"They writhed in a shame storm of..."

X. Williams has been utilized by a number of authors, but in this case, it's being utilized by none other than Ed Wood, Jr. 

This cover seems to be all over the place. Pretty drag boy meets super hero? I bet it's a total romp!

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Mr. Fancy-Panties
Author: Dick Dale
Cover Art: Ed Smith
Publisher: Late-Hour Library/Greenleaf Classics
"He was the dainty darling of the dorm!"

Another we've seen before, this one by Dick Dale. And although it doesn't appear drag-related, I thought the panties qualified it as cross-dressing. Agree? Disagree? Well, at least now we know what all those panty raids are really about.

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And now, a pair of curiosities that I failed to find any information on, but I wanted to include because I thought them fascinating. 
Poor Rich Little Boy-Girl
Author: Carmen Bestisafe (?)
Publisher: Wholesale Books

The cover appears to be done in a style reminiscent of something from one period (1950's?), while the illustrations found within look to be from a completely different one. Agree? Disagree?  I did my usual due diligence and couldn't find any information on this tome. 

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Boy Becomes Girl
January No. 7
Publisher: ID PDC
"A sister's dare turns him into the prom princess!"

This one is a complete mystery to me. At first I thought it had to be a photo-shopped meme, but if it is, it is well done. As a magazine it makes no sense (this is issue No. 7), but I've never come across any other issues. Does anyone have an info? Leave it in the comments section. The artwork? Early 1950's? It's very pretty. 
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Wasn't this fun? Well, that's all for this week. 

As always... thanks for reading!

I'm A Lumberjack - Monty Python


Xersex said...

"He was a man who liked to dress in women's clothing."

You can't imagine how many men love to dress up as women! Just take a look at grindr!

whkattk said...

I might have to see if I can find the Ed Wood tomes. Based on his films, are the books the same?

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

I am totally torn about this. It's so fabulously un-PC that I can see how so many stereotypes about LGBTQ people totally took off during this era.
The covers, though. You're right! They're scary but lure you in.
And I love Sweet Charity!!